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The game of snooker is a cue sport dating in recognizable form to the late the 1800s, with roots going back to the 16th century for of English billiards. Billiards had become popular among the British Armed Forces stationed in India. As billiards was only a two player game, however, new games such as life pool and pyramid pool were developed in order to accommodate more players. Eventually these two games were combined to form one which is now called snooker.

Contents

History of the game

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The beginning

Billiards was first played in the 1500s. It was not played by many people, though, as it generally only took place in royal palaces with aristocrats. This gave the sport a reputation of being a 'gentleman's game'. The tables used back then did not consist of any side rails, pockets or cushions, however. They only contained holes for the balls to be potted. This meant that every time that a pot was achieved the ball would fall on to the ground. The table was not the only thing different from modern billiards equipment as the balls were then made of ivory.

In the 1800s, the sport had become quite popular among the British Armed Forces that were stationed in India. They played this to pass the time due to the monsoon rain. With only 3 balls used in billiards which included a cue ball for each player it was unsuitable for any more than 2 players. This was when multi-player versions were formed. These include both life pool and pyramid pool. In life pool, several coloured balls were used as both cue balls and object balls. In pyramid pool, 15 red balls were used and a white cue ball; each player received one point per red ball potted. As well as games being developed the tables were being improved. Tables had now developed into something similar as the ones we know now.

Black pool was the next version to be created. This was similar to pyramid pool except that the black ball from life pool was added to the game and could be potted for more points. In 1875, however, at the officers' mess in Jabalpur Colonel Sir Neville Francis Fitzgerald Chamberlain suggested that the other coloured balls should also be added to the new version. The game was now becoming more like snooker is nowadays, although both the blue and brown balls were added in later years.

The name for the new version came after Chamberlain, called one of the players "a real snooker" when he had missed a shot, referring to his lack of experience. "Snooker" was a slang term for a first year cadet. This term was then associated with the game and so it was snooker. The first official set of rules for the new game were drafted up in 1882 in Ootacamund. When the British Billiards Champion, John Roberts, travelled to India in 1885 he met Chamberlain and then he decided to introduce the game to England when he arrived back there.

The early years

It took several years for the first official competitions to take place, but in 1916 the English Amateur Championships were first played and in 1927 Joe Davis helped to establish the first Professional World Championship. The winner of this was also Joe Davis who took home the winning prize of £6.10s. At the time the standard was not very high as the highest break of that tournament was just 60. Snooker, though, was beginning to become the most popular cue sport especially in 1930s.

Joe Davis continued to dominate the era as he won every World Championship up to when he retired in 1946. He also seemed to be ahead of his time as he recorded a maximum break and also had many of the skills and techniques of future generations. Soon afterwards, however, a dispute developed between the games then governing body, the Control Council, and the Billiards Association. As a result they were only two participants in the official World Championship, although an unofficial one was organised and the winner of this at the time was generally regarded as the best player in the world. Horace Lindrum won the official one and so his name is engraved on the trophy. This happened between 1952 and 1957. The popularity of snooker declined throughout the 50's and 60's and therefore no world championship took place between 1958 and 1963.

Rise in popularity

In 1969, however, a new tournament called Pot Black was launched by the BBC as a result of the introduction of colour T.V. The programme proved to be huge success and helped put snooker back into the public's view. It was successful into the 1980s when it was discontinued but a new version has been run in recent years.

The World Championship was first televised in 1973 as snooker began to grow in popularity once again. World Rankings were introduced in 1976 and in 1977 the World Championship was staged in the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield where it has been ever since. Daily television coverage of the World Championship began the following year - 1978. More money poured into the game due to the rise in popularity and a new breed of player started to emerge, like Steve Davis, who were young, serious and dedicated. Snooker reached its peak in popularity in 1985 with a titanic match in the World Championship final between Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor. Davis was favourite for the match and title due to his dominance of the decade. Everything was going to plan for him when he raced into a 7-1 lead in the first session but Taylor came storming back and it eventually went to a final frame decider which was decided on the final black ball at 00.20 in the morning with Taylor being the victor. This match received a huge U.K. T.V. rating of 18.5 million.

Modern times

Snooker continued to be popular in the 1990s and into the new millennium. Stephen Hendry had been the dominant force throughout the 90's with his aggressive style. He broke many of Steve Davis's records including winning seven world championships. Snooker's grow in popularity seems to have stagnated now especially with the number of tournaments cut down than on previous years and also the blow of losing sponsorships for tournaments like the Masters and World Championship after it became illegal in the U.K. for tobacco companies to sponsor sports tournaments. A big plus point for snooker, though, it has huge popularity in China. With many Chinese players taking up the game including the most prominent, Ding Junhui who has already won a couple of ranking tournaments the future of the game does look secure. Ronnie O'Sullivan's success in recent years have captivated many younger players.

Bibliography


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